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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Clarinet and Piano Trios
Trio (No.2) for piano, violin and cello in B flat major K502 (1786)
Trio for piano, clarinet and viola in E flat major K498 ‘Kegelstatt’ (1786) 
Trio (No.3) for piano, violin and cello in E major K542 (1788)
Andras Schiff (fortepiano)
Yuuko Tonkawa (violin)
Erich Hobarth (viola)
Miklos Perenyi (cello)
Elmar Schmid (clarinet)
Recorded in the Mozarteum, Salzburg, January 1995. DDD
WARNER CLASSICS ELATUS 2564 61733-2 [63:16]


Three Mozart Trios featuring the keyboard playing of Andras Schiff are contained on this Elatus release. The recordings were previously issued on the Teldec label and make a welcome return to the catalogue.

I just love performers to use period instruments such as those played here. However I am always cautious when a fortepiano, as chosen here by Andras Schiff, is played even if it is one that was actually used by Mozart. The fortepiano sound is very different to that of the modern grand piano such as a Bösendorfer or Steinway that pianists would typically use today. Some listeners will undoubtedly find the instrument a refreshing change and favour the authenticity. However the sound will certainly not be to everyones taste with many finding it unpleasant and tiring on the ear. A cursory glance at the front of the CD cover does not offer the information that a fortepiano is being used. Incidentally the exceptionally informative booklet notes notify the reader that as well as the fortepiano the violin and also probably the viola all belonged to Mozart.    

Overflowing with creative power and sheer accomplishment in every branch of music Mozart progressively developed and liberated the piano trio into independent part-writing. It was elevated into a genre of chamber music in its own right rather than as a piano sonata with the support of basso continuo.

The seemingly sunny and relatively undemanding Trio for piano, violin and cello in B flat major, K502 from 1786 in fact belies the sophistication of the score. Schiff and his duo give a fine and expressive interpretation of the B flat Piano Trio and I particularly enjoyed their natural and unaffected playing in the opening movement allegro.

Mozart is said to have written the score for the KegelstattTrio for piano, clarinet and viola in E flat major, K498 shortly after playing a game of skittles and Kegelstatt is the German for skittles. This intimate and perfectly blended work was also written in 1786 with Mozart playing the viola at the first performance. It was the first of Mozart’s three great clarinet compositions. The instrumentation in the ‘Kegelstatt’ Trio is creative and enables the use of new textural combinations. The players are impeccable and instinctive in producing Mozart’s innovative melodic and harmonic invention especially in the middle movement Menuetto - Trio, which is beautifully played.

In a three month period in 1788 Mozart wrote three piano trios. The first, K542 is considered to be the most significant and certainly the most moving. The straightforward and cheerful mood is effortlessly communicated by the Trio who also sensitively convey the undercurrents of melancholy contained in the work. I really enjoyed the lucid and alert playing for both piano and violin in the brilliant virtuoso passages in the rondo of the concluding allegro movement.

On this CD these are well played works by talented performers yet the two trios that lead the way for their extra artistry and vivacity use modern instruments. These are available on a double set containing the Piano trios No.1-6 by the Trio Fontenay on Teldec’s budget Ultima label 8573-87794-2. My preferred version of the ‘Kegelstatt’ Trio K.498 is the warm and rather beautiful performance from Kovacevich, Brymer and Ireland on Philips Duo 446 154-2. The bargain-priced Philips Duo set also includes the six piano trios.  

Fine performances on period instruments by Andras Schiff and friends but not a first choice.

Michael Cookson                


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